A little peace, and quiet, and love, and attention — they’re all any of us really want in life.
And maybe even more so when death is on the way.
For humans, hospice care is now big business, but the opportunity for sick and elderly dogs to die in peace and dignity isn’t always there.
And often, their last days are less than peaceful — especially for those whose owners, hoping to avoid the expense of veterinary care, abandon them to shelters or worse.
Seeing that happening too often — seeing them get abandoned at the time they need someone the most — a northern Michigan woman started the Silver Muzzle Cottage, a rescue and hospice for homeless old dogs.
The Detroit Free Press on Sunday took an in-depth look at the organization and the woman behind it, Kim Skarritt.
Silver Muzzle Cottage takes in dogs left behind either by owner choice, or by circumstances, as when a dog’s owner suddenly dies and no one else can care for it.
In two years, she has cared for more than 70 of them. It remains the only such hospice in the state, and one of the few in the country.
“They don’t ask for much when they’re really old,” said the 56-year-old former auto engineer. “They want to be loved and cared for, they want food and they just need a warm place to lay their head at night.”
Five years ago, Skarritt opened a dog boarding and fitness center called Bowsers by the Bay. Through that work, she noticed the pattern of elderly dogs being abandoned in their final days. After calling animal shelters throughout the state, she estimated there were about 900 senior dogs within 500 miles of Elk Rapids needing a home.
Skarritt researched the issue, finding many area shelters were taking in old dogs whose owners had surrendered them, sometimes just leaving them tied outside the shelters at night.
“I kept seeing these 14-year-old dogs and 13-year-old dogs in shelters and needing homes, and I’m going, ‘What is that? Who does that?'”
So she bought an empty storage building next door to her business and opened Silver Muzzle Cottage as a nonprofit rescue just for elderly dogs, which she defines as age 10 or older, or terminally ill but not suffering so much they need to be euthanized.
The Free Press described the inside of the rescue as a “big living room with couches, throw pillows, a fake fireplace with decorations atop the mantle, end tables with vases and a coffee table with a thick photo book about dogs atop it. It looks like a normal house, except there’s a bunch of dogs lounging on the couches like they own the place.”
The dogs aren’t caged at night, which means someone has to be there at all times. Skarritt moved into a small bare bones room adjacent to the living room and sleeps there at night.
About 100 rotating volunteers visit the dogs, take them for walks and car rides and pet and play with them.
Despite their old age, many get adopted — both by volunteers and by those among whom Skarritt works to spread the word about both the plight old dogs face, and the joys of having them around.
If you ask me, the world could use more places like this — for dogs and humans; places that aren’t about being poked, and prodded and prolonged but about being treated with some love, dignity and compassion when the end is near.
Silver Muzzle Cottage is at 201 Industrial Park, Elk Rapids, Mich., 49629. For information, call 231-264-8408, or visit the Silver Muzzle Cottage Facebook page.
(Photo from Silver Muzzle’s Facebook page)
Posted by John Woestendiek April 18th, 2017 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandoned, adopt, adoption, animals, compassion, death, dignity, dog, dogs, dying, elderly, elderly dogs, elk rapids, hospice, kim skarritt, michigan, old, old dogs, pets, rescue, sanctuary, shelters, silver muzzle cottage, surrendered
A young actress helped save an old dog in New Mexico last week, and Grandpa, as he’s being called, is now resting comfortably at a dog hospice and animal sanctuary that provides elderly animals with acupuncture and other Western and alternative medication.
“His life force is not strong,” said the founder and director of Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary, in (you guessed it, didn’t you?) Santa Fe. “It’s hard to tell how long he’ll be with us.”
The dog — thought to be about 15 years old — had apparently been abandoned at Santa Fe’s Frank Ortiz Dog Park, where actress Rachel Brosnahan came across him last Friday while at the park with her boyfriend and two dogs.
Others at the park had already reported his condition to animal control, but Brosnahan sat with Grandpa until help arrived.
“We thought he was injured because he couldn’t stand up,” said Brosnahan, who stars in the television series Manhattan, which is filmed in the area.
“I think he was in shock,” added Brosnahan, who also appeared in the Netflix series House of Cards. ” He was panting a lot and we brought him some water, but he only drank a little.”
Grandpa seemed to appreciate the company, she said, especially that of her own dogs, including Nicky, a pit-bull mix.
Jennifer Steketee, the Santa Fe Animal Shelter’s director of veterinary services, said staff gave the dehydrated dog IV fluids, and that — other than arthritis and other symptoms associated with his advanced age — he showed no other signs of illness.
The dog was not microchipped and had no tags or other identification.
Because of his age, the shelter contacted Kindred Spirits Animal Sanctuary.
Pedersen, who met the dog on Tuesday, said Grandpa would be a perfect fit for her sanctuary, which provides eldercare and hospice for dogs, horses and poultry.
Brosnahan, who offered to foster the dog, said she was happy to hear Grandpa would be living the rest of his life there — and that she plans to visit him soon.
“I am so happy he’s going to be cared for at such a wonderful place,” she said.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 26th, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: abandoned, actress, animals, dog, dog park, dogs, elderly, frank ortiz dog park, grandpa, hospice, house of cards, kindred spirits animal sanctuary, manhattan, pets, rachel brosnahan, sanctuary, santa fe
John Simpson, who is living at a hospice and who doctors say has only days to live, saw his dog last Saturday, when a neighbor caring for the Chihuahua brought him by for a visit.
His hopes for one more visit were dashed when, the next day, Mr. Cutie escaped by digging a hole under a fence.
“I really think he was looking for John,” neighbor Ann Marie Gemmel told MyFoxTampaBay.com.
Simpson, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012, said in an interview after Mr. Cutie went missing that the dog was his “spark of life,” and what he was living for.
“When you’re growing up you’re asked, ‘If you could have one wish, what would you wish for?’ Back in those days, I used to say, ‘As many wishes as I could wish for.’ Now my only wish would be for my dog to come home,” he said.
On Friday, Mr. Cutie was found by Missy Figueroa, who didn’t know Simpson. She took photos of the dog and posted them on the website FidoFinder.com.
A Fox 13 viewer who had seen the TV news report on Simpson’s missing dog saw the post and called the TV station, which passed the information along to Figueroa.
Unsure whether it was Simpson’s dog, Figueroa brought the Chihuahua to the hospice.
The reaction of dog and owner upon their reunion confirmed it was Mr. Cutie she had found.
“Seeing this person that I don’t even know, you know, so excited to see his dog, it just makes me happy that I actually got to be here for that and just make him happy,” Figueroa said.
Said Simpson, “I’m about to cry …”
Posted by John Woestendiek June 11th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, chihuahua, death, dog, dogs, dying, dying wish, fido finder, fidofinder, found, fox, fox 13, hospice, john simpson, last, lost, missy figueroa, mister cutie, mr cutie, news, pancreatic cancer, pets, stranger, tampa bay, veteran, vietnam, wish
(WARNING: The contents of this video are disturbing.)
Angel’s Gate — an animal sanctuary you may have seen Oprah Winfrey and Rachel Ray sing the praises of — bills itself as a non-profit organization that cares for disabled, abused and abandoned animals, providing them a place to live out their years in dignity and comfort while receiving holistic treatment and spiritual support.
PETA — hold the harp music — calls it “a chaotic hellhole.”
The hospice and rehabilitation center in Delhi, New York — founded and operated by Susan Marino — takes in “special needs animals” from all over the U.S., and provides for them through donations from the public. Marino promises both donors and people who send her animals that animals will “live out their days in peace, dignity and love.”
PETA says photos and video from its investigation show “Angel’s Gate was a chaotic hellhole where animals whose conditions required special, individualized, round-the-clock care were deprived of basic necessities and quality of life.”
PETA’s undercover investigator, posing as a volunteer, documented paralyzed animals dragging themselves until they developed bleeding wounds; animals kept in the same diaper for up to two days until they suffered urine scald; dehydrated animals denied access to water; animals confined to crates, bathrooms, cribs and a bathtub; animals denied treatment for pain, seizures, tumors, open wounds, respiratory infections, eye infections, ear infections, and mouth, gum and skin infections; and crowded conditions so stressful that fights broke out daily.
Despite claiming to provide “hospice care” and “rehabilitation” to hundreds of animals, Angel’s Gate does not have a veterinarian on staff and most animals were denied veterinary care for a variety of ailments, from simple to terminal, PETA reports.
Among the investigator’s findings:
- An elderly Chihuahua named Malcolm, sent there from Animal Care and Control in Brooklyn, suffered for about two weeks before he finally died — anemic, lethargic, thin, dehydrated, and unable to balance, walk, or even eat.
- Medications that had been prescribed for Shifty, a bulldog suffering from seizures, and Tucker, a dog with hydrocephalus, was untouched almost a week after a veterinarian had dispensed them.
- A miniature horse named Mimi was denied veterinary care for respiratory distress for days before she finally died. More than four months after Mimi’s death, Marino still solicited sponsorship donations for Mimi’s care on the Angel’s Gate website.
Angel’s Gate, like any facility that houses the sick, terminally ill and handicapped — be they dogs or humans — is bound to have messy moments and daily disasters. But the investigator’s video goes a long way toward documenting that, whatever love Angel’s Gate may, as it promises, be providing, “peace and dignity” are far from ever-present.
Some of PETA’s findings may have been judgment calls: “Horribly suffering animals on death’s door were deprived of the dignity and relief of euthanasia.”
Others clearly were not: “The bodies of dead animals were left out for days among live animals. Animals were fed rancid, raw meat that had been left unrefrigerated.”
PETA says that in 2004, the IRS listed Angel’s Gate as an organization that failed to establish its status as a public charity, and in 2010, it was listed by the IRS as being at risk of having its charity status revoked.
Marino, PETA points out, has been featured positively on national TV, prompting public donations — one lottery winner apparently sent $50,000 — and what PETA says is the “false impression” that Angel’s Gate is a good place for animals.
PETA has turned over evidence gathered by its investigator to Delaware County District Attorney Richard Northrup Jr., and it is asking its members and others to urge his office to file animal cruelty charges against Marino.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 22nd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abandoned, abused, angel's gate, animal, animals, attorney general, cats, delhi, disabled, dogs, donations, hellhole, horses, hospice, investigation, new york, non-profit, opray winfrey, people for the ethical treatment of animals, peta, pets, rachel ray, sanctuary, susan marino, undercover
A memorial service was held this week for Baxter, the California therapy dog who, though losing much of his fur and the use of his legs, continued to bring comfort to the dying up until his own death this month at age 19 1/2.
The service Wednesday at the San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine drew nearly 100 friends, family and staff, according to an Associated Press report.
Baxter’s owner, Melissa Joseph, pulled the dog — a chow-golden retriever mix — from room to room in a red wagon and would lift him onto patient’s beds for a visit. (If you haven’t seen the video of Baxter, click here.)
“He licked tears from grieving faces, gave hugs to those at a loss for words, and warmed the hearts and souls of those who were making their transition,” Joseph wrote in her online eulogy. “Everyone loved Baxter.”
Lisa McCullough, spiritual counselor for the inpatient care center, said some patients who refused to share their life stories with staff would talk freely if Baxter was in the room. “And sometimes they opened up about the end of their life’s journey,” McCullough said. “I think Baxter made them feel safe and valued. He has helped just countless patients discover purpose and peace and connection in the last phase of their lives.”
Joseph and her husband, Dennis Bussey, released a book in June called “Moments with Baxter,” a collection of 36 stories about Baxter and his work. Proceeds from the book to go to the hospice and charities that support animal causes.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 30th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: baxter, care, comfort, dogs, dying, end of life, hospice, institute for palliative medicine, life, medical, melissa joseph, memorial, moments with baxter, patients, san diego, service, therapy dog, video, wagon
You can learn more about Baxter and the book here.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: baxter, care, comfort, death, dog, dogs, dying, elderly, end of life, hospice, institute for palliative medicine, melissa joseph, moments with baxter, patients, san diego, san diego hospice, therapy dog, therapy dogs, video, wagon
As you can see in this week’s episode of “Tagged!” brought to you from the studios of Barnes & Noble, there’s a whole slew of new dog books coming out, including “Izzy and Lenore,” the latest by Jon Katz, the suspender-wearing, farm-dwelling writer of “Dog Days,” “The Dogs of Bedlam Farm” and more.
In his previous books, Katz has focused on the ups and downs that come with owning a 110-acre, 1861 homestead in rural New York state, surrounded by dogs and farm animals. In his newest work, “Izzy and Lenore,” coming out this week, he takes readers to a far different place – the world of hospice care, which he enters with his dogs in tow.
Training both himself and his two dogs – a black lab and Border collie – for therapy work was rigorous and life changing, Katz recounted in a recent interview with The Saratogian.
“I thought this was going to be hard because you walk in these houses, these people are alone, their families are isolated,” Katz said. “When you come walking in the door with Izzy or Lenore, they just light up. They couldn’t be more grateful. If you climbed Mt. Everest it couldn’t be a bigger deal to them. I’ve actually found more love, affection and friendship than I’d ever experienced.”
“The dog connects with people in a way that people don’t,” he said. “They don’t speak and they’re non-judgmental. A dog doesn’t see a sick person, doesn’t see a dying person. The dog just sees the spirit of a person and reacts to it.
“The dog is the key to opening people up.”